At the height of the spill, BP had 16 remote-operated vehicles (ROVs) working 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico to stop the leak. Thanks to some neat work by the oil field service company Oceaneering, all 16 cameras were able to stream live on BP’s public website. The function of the cameras was to give the ROV operators and engineers eyes on the well so they could stop the flow of oil. The communications/PR value was that the world could watch those efforts live. And watch they did.
This technology created challenges for the BP PR team (of which I was a member). The team was called upon to explain what people were seeing. BP’s press office in Houston and London took many phone calls from people wanting to know what a specific ROV was showing at a specific time. It is safe to say that the public watched those ROV feeds closer than the BP PR team. (This isn’t a slight; there were a thousand things to do every day during that crisis and BP’s communicators worked their tails off.)
|NASA Mission commentator|
Rob Navias at the console
There were even suggestions to have live commentary similar to what NASA provides during Space Shuttle launches. This isn’t something many corporate PR teams are capable of pulling off (we all can’t be Rob Navias).
You could even make a case for (get ready to use the defibrillator on the lawyer …) having a communicator live blog during a crisis from the company crisis center (… CLEAR!).
Twitter and Facebook have already brought a lot of crisis communications into the realm of real-time. Most of this real-time coverage is being done by others instead of the companies involved. One of my mentors in this business says, “The story is always better with you than without you.”
I’m interested in your thoughts about how to pull this off. Let me know if you think this is a capability companies need to develop and how you think it can be done.
Unless companies figure a way to adapt to and anticipate these changes, real-time crisis communications will leave businesses without a voice when they need it most.